Opening Our Hearts (Rev. Lou Snead)
Opening of the Heart
In his reflections on nature spirituality, Bron Taylor makes a distinction between what he calls “green religion” and “dark green religion”. Those who practice green religion see environmentally friendly behavior as a religious obligation, much like the moral obligation to love others as we love ourselves. Most of the green religious traditions engage in worship as a response to blessings that God or the Holy Other has provided for us as humans, the benefits of the earth being among them. Those who practice dark green religion see nature as a sacred sphere independent of human activity with intrinsic value and due reverent care. Unlike the more anthropocentric orientation in most green religious expressions, those who embody a dark green religious expression consider all parts of nature to be sacred, worthwhile, and valuable apart from any usefulness to human beings. Hence, living humbly in harmony with nature, appreciating the interdependence of all life, and cherishing and communing with the world in which we live is the basis for this religious sense of worship.
Following this distinction in green religious orientations, Robert Gottlieb has suggested that nature-centered rituals of Asian and Native American spirituality seem to have preceded the more anthropocentric rituals we find in Christian worship. He offers two prayers as examples of the nature-centered spirituality. One is found in a late eighteenth century prayer in Hasidic Judaism:
Master of the Universe
Grant me the ability to be alone;
May it be my custom to go outdoors each day
Among the trees and grass – among all growing things.
May I express there everything in my heart
And may all the foliage of the field -
All grasses, trees, and plants-
Awake at my coming,
To send the power of their life into the words of my prayer
So that my prayer and speech are made whole.
Through the life and spirit of all growing things
Which are made as one by their transcendent Source.
There are also dark green prayers that call for human care in the interdependent web of life, even for those of us who are urban captives. Here's a Buddhist prayer of an American Zen teacher:
When I stroll around the city
I vow with all beings
To notice how lichen and grasses
Never give up in despair
Preparing the garden for seeds
I vow with all things
to nurture the soil to be fertile
each spring for the next thousand years
With tropical forests in danger
I vow with all things
To raise hell with the people responsible
and slash my consumption of trees.
May these prayers open our hearts to be at one with the sacred sphere of nature of which we are just a small part.
- Lou Snead